BOCA RATON, Florida. – For almost two years, Randy Lawrence of Boca Raton has suspected who has stolen his collection of about 1,300 comics worth $ 2 million, a treasure he built for 54 years as a nest for retirees.
But at the time, no one — neither he nor the Palm Beach sheriff’s office, the FBI, the attorney, or even a private detective — could do anything with the bloated graphic novels, or prove who the nabber was.
The story hit the front pages of the national world and hit the world of comic book collectors, both here and in Europe.
After the superhero’s efforts, Lawrence retrieved the collection back in January 2020 and now offers Batman comics, his special focus, during an online auction that began Thursday at noon and runs Sunday through Heritage Auctions. Go to HA.com.
“It just haunted me every day,” Lawrence says. “I know who robbed me.” That was the most frustrating thing. “
The collection was stolen from Lawrence’s storage unit sometime between December 2018 and January 8, 2019, the day he discovered the theft.
“I went in and there was a box, it just moved a little,” recalls a 60-year-old native of New York. “I didn’t remember moving it.” I took off the top and it was empty. I took off another peak and another peak and continued on and on. And they were all empty. I remember screaming like a wounded animal. That was all my money. There was everything in these books. That was my retirement plan. “
Just weeks later, about 2,000 miles away in Phoenix, Arizona, Phillip Weisbauer was arrested for trying to sell five more valuable historical Batman comics. Weisbauer, a resident of Royal Palm Beach, told police he knew nothing about the other comics. After admitting to the reduced fee, he was given a condition and ordered to pay court costs.
But Lawrence felt that Weisbauer’s father in Palm Beach County was worth watching.
“It turned out my father had a (storage) unit that they got about 30 feet from my storage unit at the time,” Lawrence says. “The hunt was on.” I went to the FBI … Palm Beach County Sheriff, Dave Aronberg, to the Attorney General’s Office (Palm Beach District). I sat at home for months. So I had to take it on. “
After a private detective proved to be a “waste of time and money,” Lawrence hired lawyer Wayne Schwartz of Boca Raton Lee and Amtzis.
“He’s finished the solution,” he says. “Suddenly he returned the books.” We knew my father had the books. I was very, very, very lucky. “
The father was never charged.
Lawrence decided not to push his luck. He made plans to sell the collection and merged with the Dallas Heritage Auctions.
Legacy Robert Wilonsky says Lawrence’s Batman comics – called the Alfred Pennyworth Collection (named after the butler Batman / Bruce Wayne) – were already well known among comic book enthusiasts, but the media coverage of the robbery spread awareness beyond these cliques and conducted an auction with great interest for more potential candidates.
“It must have contributed to their shame,” he says. “I think it added a great story.” The collection is well regarded. Randy was looking for…. best of the best of the best. And he focused on Batman. “
In November, Heritage auctioned about 200 books from the collection.
At the time, one of Lawrence’s titles set a record in the most paid comic book Batman from the Silver Age (1956-1970). The comic was Batgirl’s debut and was released for $ 132,000.
This week, when there will be three-day events and weekly events at the same time, approximately 900 titles will be auctioned. Another 70 are going up for auction on Sunday evening.
“When Randy’s comics were stolen … he heralded it among the collectors’ community,” adds Wilonsky. “This closed comic community helped him get them back.”
“That night (when the theft was discovered) I sent an email to all my friends (comic book) dealers,” says Lawrence. “I issued a warning.” All of these people spread this email to everyone. The next morning I went to the local comic book stores and … every place I went, everyone knew who I was. I have never been involved in social media before. I was amazed. “
He even heard from collectors and sellers in Rome, London and Paris.
STORY OF ORIGIN
The story may have disappeared by half a world, but it began with a child, Lawrence’s father, who began collecting comics in 1939. He kept a carefully arranged collection in boxes under the bed.
One day, when Lawrence’s father was at school, someone knocked on the door and someone collected paper.
“And my grandmother handed out all my father’s comics,” he says. “Everything was gone.” In a way, we went through the same thing with him. In his case, his comic was stolen from his mother, and in my case, a stranger stole mine. “
Fast forward to 1966, and Lawrence, as a child, woke up one Sunday morning to see two comics, Batman and Spider-Man, lying on the floor in front of his bed. Sunday’s routine continued for years.
“Somehow I think he did it to really want to read me.” But I also think he tried to upset me because of his love for the comics he had when he was a boy. “
His father even built him a secret room in the basement where he could keep his growing collection. “There were shingles on this one wall, like the shingles you have on the outside of the house.” One shingle, you squeezed it and the door opened. “
At the age of 20, Lawrence was still collecting, buying several historical titles, and then selling off most titles such as Avengers and Spider-Man to focus on Batman when he was 30. He made a living working in a clothing store in a Manhattan clothing store all the time. center.
“I tried to make it the best Batman collection,” he adds. “And pretty much I’ve done it for the next 40 years.”
Now he has only six Batman comics that he just couldn’t break up with, with all the villains like Penguin, Joker, Catwoman. This and some drawings are tucked away.
“They’re hidden in a very, very safe place,” says Lawrence.